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Endless Summer Winter Covered vs Uncovered

August 22, 2011

The photos below are the same 2 endless summer hydrangeas covered in the winter and uncovered. There is dramatic difference when you cover them in our zone.(Southern Ontario).

Wintered Covered


Comments (38)
  • luis_pr

    I agree with you, BiggerB, and I pick "door #1", titled winter covered. Although right now, I would settle for either of them. Our extreme drought has done quite a number on hydrangeas locally. The optional winter protection helps some/more of ES's old wood flower buds survive winter so the first Spring flush that you get is better. Just wondering, what "signals" do you use to trigger covering them and uncovering them?

  • BiggerB

    Up here in Southern Ontario Canada we usually only get one flush of flowers from the old wood and the odd flower on the new growth so its important to protect the old buds. I cover them with leaves in November before the snow comes which usually is in December. I uncover them in late April/early May when frost will usually occur infrequently. If frost is expected I re-cover them with blankets. I usually only have to re-cover a few times.Hope that helps. Here's a pic of some different endless summers that I have in the front of the house.Pic was taken the first week of July.

  • Smivies (Ontario - 5b)

    Yes...more blooms if you cover it up. Photo #2 also indicates drought stress. More watering is required!! They don't call them HYDRAngea for nothing.

    As for your protection regime. They should be uncovered as soon as you can once the temperature is not expected to go below -15 Celsius. That way, they'll come out of dormancy with everything else and won't require special protection if a frost is expected.

  • BiggerB

    Yes...Photo 2 needed some water. I have uncovered them earlier in the past and the leaves and buds were severely damaged by late frosts so I think I will continue my regime as I don't think I could get many more blooms on the plants by doing otherwise and it doesn't take long to cover them.

  • MollyDog

    How did you cover them?

  • vbnet

    I hope this doesn't sound dumb, but when you "cover them with leaves", does that mean a mound right up to the tippy top of the plant, or about 6 inches up or what?

  • BiggerB

    The way I do it is a little different than some of the other methods I have seen used. I use cheap no-name Saran wrap and wrap the plants up starting at the bottom and work my way up to the top. As I am wrapping them I carefully stuff leaves between the Saran wrap and the branches.(4 or 5 inches of leaves). Try not to knock off any nodes or buds while you are doing it. When you get to the top gently pack the interior with leaves. When you are done you will have a plastic cylinder or tube filled with leaves. I usually cut a few little slits in the side of the plastic to let moisure out. In the spring I take a knife and cut the plastic wrap off and very gently remove the leaves. Be careful because the buds can come off fairly easily. I usually remove about 3 weeks before the last expected frost date. You must cover your plants if frost is expected or you will lose your flower buds and you will have wasted your time. Cover with plastic or a dense sheet or blanket. I have covered with thin bed sheets before and the frost got through and damaged the leaves and buds. Don't cut any dead wood or branches off until later in the season as the dead looking wood probably isn't dead and you will be cutting off some of the flowers. When I do it in a couple of months I will post some pics. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes per plant to cover your plants this way and about the same to uncover.Hope this helps.

  • LadyAssassin

    I live in Ontario as well and zone 5b and I completely agree that covering your hydrangeas in our zone over winter does wonders to those precious plants. I covered all my macrophyllas - two Endless Summer, Glowing Embers, Hamburg, Cityline Mars and Cityline Vienna for the first time last winter and had amazing blooms this summer. The Saran wrap is a neat idea, I used Burlap and mulch like crazy.

  • millerrocks

    All of this is wonderful information!! I live in south Texas, zone 9. I have 4 in ground planted Forver & ever Hydrangeas but they are less than a year old and about 1 foot tall. Does anyone know the best way to over wonter these small guys? I don't believe I can wrap them with saran wrap. I guess I should just cover them with leaves/mulch, will that be enough?

  • lindac

    My endless summer is very tall.....can I remove the top foot or so before I wrap and still have good results?

  • Smivies (Ontario - 5b)

    No special winter care would be required for these hydrangeas in south Texas....that is unless you have winter temperatures below 0�F?

  • luis_pr

    Here is Texas, our mild winters normally allow us to simply leave them well mulched (3-4" of mulch). They are hardy to about Zone 5, which means no protection is necessary other than mulching and watering. Regarding watering while they are dormant (in December or so), you can water once every two weeks or so. Keep that watering in mind as we are still in the middle of the exceptional drought. And the mulch will help sooo much. I have one that died to the ground but came back. And another one where it dried out half of the plant but it came back. Thanks to rains, extra watering and the mulch.

    However, should the winter temperatures remain quite warm thru December, you might consider the extra step of covering non-remontant hydrangeas with chicken wire and leaves. Almost unheard of here. A few years ago, winter did not stop by at all until mid-December and it stayed for a week with sub-freezing temperatures. That did not harm many of the plants, surprisingly, as most of the stems leafed out normally in Spring but non-remontant ones sure had no blooms. Well, only two from those that year. The old wood flower buds got killed by the warm temperatures followed by sudden and very cold temperatures that kept the shrubs in active growth mode. I had not seen that happen in decades. ES's old wood blooms would have taken a hit too but the new wood blooms bloomed again.

  • BiggerB

    My endless summer is very tall.....can I remove the top foot or so before I wrap and still have good results?

    Sure you can. Obviously the less you cut the better but the top part of mine usually freeze and die anyways because after the leaves settle I don't do a good job of topping them off with more leaves.

  • vbnet

    Thanks for the info on covering them. I'm going to try it and will watch for you pictures. I also planted an big daddy, I'll cover him and see what happens. I didn't really expect him to survive this winter, but you never know. To me it was worth it to plant him for the year to get those Big Fat Blooms!

  • springwood_gardens

    Just a tip about Saran wrapping. Tie off the start of the wrap to a thick bottom branch. That way you can adjust the tension so you can cinch into as tight of a bundle as you need. I'm going to do some by mounding leaves into a cone through the shrub, then cinching the wrap enough to create a comfortable cylinder, and lastly using stray leaves to top off the bundle.

    Plastic sheeting might actually be a cheaper and sturdier way to go per square foot than Saran...

  • BiggerB

    Here's some photos of the saran wrapped hydrangeas. I bought the no-name plastic wrap for $1.79 for a 300 ft. roll at Food Basics. Plastic sheets or plastic paint drop cloths would work also but you would need to tie it around the plant. Obviously the smaller the plant the easier it is to wrap. Some of my plants are 5 ft high and I use 2 garbage pails of leaves to cover them. Another good method to use on small plants is to place a large leaf bag over the plant and rip open the top and fill with leaves.






    Remember there are many methods to cover your hydrangeas so look around and maybe you will find one you like better.The important thing is to cover with leaves or whatever and don't remove the covering too soon. Spring frost can kill the flower buds so if you do uncover make sure you cover them if frost is expected.

  • kskaren

    I've not heard of this method of wrapping plastic wrap around the plant, but I think it would be easier than the wire cages I used last year. Would a cinch-style white kitchen trash bag work? Or does it need to be clear plastic?

    Also, I was thinking about using the flattening method with cardboard this year. Does anyone prefer that method over wrapping?
    Thanks for the great pictures, BiggerB!

  • mehearty

    Hi Karen, good timing on your question about flattening as I just completed mine. I tried wrapped & stuffing with leaves, but it didn't work well for me because as the weeks wore on, the leaves flattened. Eventually, the tips were blowing in the frost bitten air.

    I've had luck with flattening under cardboard. I tend to OW my Nikkos but not ES (though I did do one ES this year that was a transplant). I flatten with cardboard, weigh the cardboard down with rocks and cover with either mulch or oak leaves. These are 2 Nikkos getting ready for their rest. One is all covered and one was about to get leaves dumped on it.


    Glad I took care of this now, because we have a snow storm coming in tomorrow. Our second one this fall. Ugh.

    BiggerB, your hydrangeas are gorgeous!

  • kskaren

    Just now seeing this, mehearty! Thanks for the photo. I ended up flattening all of my smaller ones, but I couldn't wrestle my bigger one in place with the cardboard. I would have needed DH's help, and he was at work. I still haven't done anything to it yet, but we really haven't had any bitter cold weather yet either. That said, I don't know if I'll get to it this year. I may just have to deal with some winter kill next summer...:(

  • melaroma

    Mehearty, How do you flatten them without breaking the branches? I have wanted to try this method but am afraid to for that reason. By fall the branches are usually really dry. Also, would I need to be extra careful unflattening them after? Will the buds be tender to the touch? How do you do it? Thanks!

  • millerrocks

    Hello everyone:)
    Very interesting ways to over winter your hydrageas! I never would have thought to flatten them down, scary! lol

    Luis_pr replied to my post on this thread back in October about the mild winters in south texas, I am south of Houston. He mentioned not having to do anything to the hydrangeas during the winter.

    My Forever & Ever's are still green and pretty much look like they looked back in october. They still have the leaves on them, with the exception of red coloring on the outter edges of the leaves. Also the blooms have turned from brown to a very pretty maroon. I even have a recent bloom thats been holding strong since the begining of december and it is still pink as can be. I have 4 in ground, planted in the front of the house, and 4 more in pots on the porch above them.

    There is another house about a 10 minute drive away that has some type of hydrangea in the corner of their home. It seems like a mature plant, probably about 3-4 feet tall, and it has lost all of its leaves and is just a pile of sticks. Shouldn't mine look this way too?

    Should I be worried that mine (less than a foot tall, about a year old) have not gone dormant? what do I have to look forward to this coming year? We had one night of freezing temps for about 6 hours and maybe a few nights in the 40s. Very mild winter, plently of rain so that I have not had to water.

    Any advice? Thank you:)

  • liza070831

    I used to cover my ES but never got any blooms. Last year I didn't cover and both bushes bloomed like crazy. This year they are covered by new sprouts already. Go figure.

  • dahlia66

    BiggerB, I'm just seeing all these posts now, almost 6 years later. Can I have your permission to use your photos in a book, of course giving you credit however you would like.

  • ophoenix

    BiggerB Great thread and your hydrangeas are beautiful. You figured it out and now are sharing! Good job and you are a hero for those who will have beautiful blooms next spring.

  • arcy_gw

    Oh wow did I get hood winked. Never heard I needed to baby these guys. I have three--for about 10 years. What a disappointment. MAYBE get one bloom each. I am zn3/4...no way am I going to the trouble to cover them..this year they LEAPED and are over five feet tall for some reason. Still no sign of blooms but they do appear healthy. I guess I need to give up and dig them out. grrrr.

  • hyed

    Arcy , I Hear You... try Little QF and Little lime

  • terry bartinson zone 3a NorthWest Ontario C

    Our ES are about 2" x 2" now. I wonder if covering the ground with a bag of of black dirt/mulch about 4" high...covering the plant with leaves...then covering the plant and leaves with a clear plastic leaf bag (top cut off)...would do the trick. Very cold NW Ontario winters. Thanks.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    While I don't see anyone coming back with any negative results, I would discourage the use or Saran Wrap or any other plastic substance to protect plants over winter. Plastic inhibits any air circulation and can lead to disease issues and rot. And it can also act like a solar panel or covering and heat up the area underneath quite significantly on a sunny day.......even in midwinter. This can serve to stimulate the plant out of dormancy - which you do not want to do..

    The most often recommended overwintering method for colder climates is to construct a wire cage (chicken wire is cheap and easy to work with) around the plant and then stuff the cage with straw or dried leaves.

  • terry bartinson zone 3a NorthWest Ontario C

    Thanks gardengal. Didn't think of those possibly negative issues regarding clear plastic. I just happen to have a roll of chicken wire kicking around lol. Our ES's aren't very big yet and I have a couple of big styrofoam cones kicking around, each of which might cover a plant. They have holes in them. Do you think these cones over the leaf covered bushes would work? Thanks.

  • hyed


    hi terry , thought this might be interesting

  • terry bartinson zone 3a NorthWest Ontario C

    Thanks hyed. Yes, interesting. Didn't know an engineering degree was needed to get the ES's flowering lol.

  • hyed

    Terry, at 2’x2’ you should have no problem Winter protecting your ES .... in the past I did the bend to the ground with rocks & cardboard... today my ES are 5’to 6’ just too much work for a old timer(78) ... have removed a number of ES and gone with the LL, Anne, Little lime QF, and the list just goes on ....Good Luck

  • gardenshots

    I flatten, add leaves, cardboard (pin with landscape staples or weight down with rocks) then another layer of leaves, then top with pine branches or whatever branches I have around to hold down the leaves. Works great on non-hardy hydrangeas and ES varieties - twist and shout, original and bloomstruck. It's pretty amazing when you uncover in the spring and leaf buds are ready to burst!

  • AshBecky 5aWI

    Hi everybody! I do have an engineering degree, but I thought that my Endless Summer hydrangea was fine, because it was hardy in my zone. I've had this plant for almost 10 years, I think. I transplanted it to a new location and surrounded it with chicken wire and straw last winter. I didn't notice a difference in the number of blooms, but it was only the 2nd growing season in the plant's new location. I think I'll go try flattening it with cardboard and leaves while it is above freezing today. I thought I read something about waiting for the ground to be completely frozen before mulching the hydrangea when I read a lot of these posts last fall. Maybe I should have protected it earlier in November.

  • Billy

    The advice I was given on here is that you want it protected before you have temps that dip down into the mid 20 degree Fahrenheit mark and lower. That seems to be the temp threshold for when damage to buds begin. The hardiness advertised on the plant is for the root system, not the buds. Buds seems to survive in zones 7 and above without winter protection.

  • terry bartinson zone 3a NorthWest Ontario C

    Thanks hyed. Sorry, didn't see your post. We've given up on our ES Bloomstruck. Just too cold here to count on getting blooms. 1 of 3 years ours flowered but that sumer was preceded by an incredibly mild winter for here...Probably won't see that again for 20 years

    So we are going to give the Smooth" hydrangea Invincebelle Rubyii a try. We've done well with Annabelle for 20+ years.

  • dahlia66

    I'm coming late to this party, so please excuse what might appear to be "butting in." I have struggled w/Bloomstruck for nearly 5 years in my zone 5B CT garden. Only one of several of them has finally performed this past summer and it was a stunner. It's in a very protected spot (by accident) that has a source of natural moisture: practically ideal conditions. Even with all of that, I have concluded that this particular plant just takes a very long time to get established. And if the summer isn't a good one, chances of a rebloom cycle are practically nil. My Endless Summer Twist 'n' Shout is the best of the lot. Blushing Bride is almost flowerless most of the time even after a benign winter. They removed it at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden because of that. But Twist 'n' Shout always comes through for a rebloom cycle. The other one that is extremely dependable for me that is not a rebloomer is 'Lady in Red.' I don't wrap or protect in any way except to spray for deer and even after a brutal Polar Vortex winter, she has always flowered. In fact, she is one of the genetic lines for 'Bloomstruck'. The other line of rebloomers that have blown me away this past season are the 'Tuff Stuff' options. Smaller plants, vigorous, and dependable. But you are right to go with the 'Invincibelle' line. They are foolproof since they flower on new wood. Can't go wrong there. Plus over time they will form a nice colony and some of mine have self sowed around the garden. And I watch the birds over the winter pick through the seed heads. Lots to love about them.

  • ophoenix

    As you said Dahlia, Tuff Stuff is a serrata (mountain Hydrangea) and might be the answer. I love them and have added several to my garden over the last few years. Cold temps are not an issue here in the PNW, where all hydrangeas are really easy to grow. The smaller serratas, with their dainty blossom heads are very welcome as a contrast to the brash, huge (Annabelle can get as big as a volleyball) Mac flower heads. The smaller serratas make a great under story plant for the much larger Asperas.

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